CM . . .
. Volume IX Number 2 . . . . September 20, 2002
One thing which I need to make clear from the beginning is that I am not an expert on dreams. I have never kept a dream journal or had one of my dreams interpreted either by an amateur or expert. I have not even risen to the heights of Psychology 101! This review is, therefore, definitely that of a total ignoramus. The author of the book, however, has a long list of impressive qualifications, and the general tenor of the book has me convinced that her statements are based on solid theories and comprehensive knowledge of the subject.
The above list of common dream scenarios does not support the conclusion that this could better be called "The Nightmare Book", but the rest of the book does. Good dreams are mentioned occasionally, but mostly we are dealing with fears, embarrassments, sorrows, and frustrations. This approach is quite reasonable. Bad dreams tend to be the ones we remember and the ones that return to haunt us whereas good ones merely leave us waking with a smile and a happy start to the day. And just knowing that other kids (Not to forget adults! I found a number of my dreams laid out here) have had similar horrific dream experiences is comforting to people of any age. We prefer not to be unique, especially in our insecurities. The chapters of the book have been given titles that are amusing pithy summaries of the types of dreams discussed in them---"Help - I'm falling," "Yikes! I'm naked" and such---followed by a relatively extensive description of a typical dream of that sort given in the words of a kid who has had one. In general, this is followed by a discussion of the sort of situation in "real life" that could have prompted such a dream, as well as variants on the dream itself. Again and again, the reader is urged to look at his or her own life to assess what could be producing the anxieties, turmoil and fears that have taken form in the dream. This is a type of introspection that not all teens are very keen on, but from which they could well benefit. Obviously not all circumstances which have produced a nightmare are ones over which the person has any control, but many of them are, and the realization that this is so could be quite empowering. One is more in control of one's school life if one has studied for a test than if one has not!
I found very interesting the idea that one can sometimes alter the outcome of one's dreams! In that drowsy state between sleeping and waking, it is sometimes possible to go back to one's dream, but with one's conscious mind "in gear," as it were, and make friends with the threatening beast or change free fall to soaring flight; turn evil to good, in other words. It's a nice idea, but all I can say is, "Good luck!"
Dr. Garfield finishes with a chapter on journaling, suggestions for how to remember/recall one's dreams, and then how to work the association with one's waking life. Again, this is a call to introspection, something with which not all people are comfortable and which ends up sounding like quite a lot of work, but rather fun. And she urges getting a good night's sleep as an essential to a fulfilling dream life---yet another push to a healthy life style! All this is fine as far as it goes, but it presupposes an interest in the subject. As a teenager to whom I gave the book said, "It's okay, I guess, but I can't think why anyone would bother to read it." If you are troubled by your dreams, if you like writing enough that keeping a pen and paper by your bed is not in itself threatening, if you have interest in your mental workings, then this book is for you. If you think that someone you know might benefit from it, forget it, because it won't be read. Too bad, but there it is.
Mary Thomas is on leave from her job in two elementary school libraries in Winnipeg, MB.
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Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.